Now I mentioned in the last interview how lycans were high on our ‘crap-yourself-and-run’ index and that we have a compiled list of those species we consider most terror-inducing, so I should probably start this article by clarifying that not many things evoke the ‘kill me now’ kind of fear in us as spiders.
Therefore you might say ‘we weren’t best pleased’ to learn that this week’s interviewee was going to be an almost 7ft arachnid anthropomorph that is, if you wanted to make a gross understatement.
In fact those of us hoping beyond hope that this experience would somehow alleviate our abject terror of arachnids were instead rudely reminded why we cry ourselves to sleep at night and that insomnia really is our only friend because whilst Nico turned out to be a most pleasant man the same cannot be said for Xio Mar.
Being pre-warned that this Xio is prone to act more on instincts than thought and that he may unconsciously react in a violent manner only served to heighten our anxieties. The instruction was specific that we shouldn’t approach him in any way that might trigger his reflexes unless we wanted to be deftly wall-pinned or view our own innards.
Now this was fine by me as I hadn’t planned on approaching Xio at all and had drawn several complex plans of combined mystery illnesses and traffic malfunctions to get out of being in the same room at any cost. As a last resort I even decided I could spend the entire interview hiding in the closet with feigned insanity. However in order to save face (and my neck under zero threat of severe punishment from my superiors) I decided to be brave, persevere and stand up to one of my greatest fears.
Although I actually had to sit down, and ‘sitting down to one of your greatest fears,’ sounds markedly less like overcoming terror and increasingly more like inviting it in for tea and biscuits with a defibrillator on hand just for kicks.
It didn’t help to know that Xio Mar stands a little over 6ft 6in tall and is widely seen as a cunning weapons expert at the top of his game. At 36years old he is considered an aged member of his species who naturally possesses increased dexterity and strength in each of his eight limbs and (joy of joys) can jump extraordinarily high. Extremely attuned to his surroundings he also exhibits a frighteningly swift reaction time to even the slightest vibration. Two small blessings are that jumping spiders don’t spin webs and Xio has no known relatives that might suddenly decide to pop up for an interview or take grievance with us.
Much to everyone but the security guards relief he is so overloaded with guns when he first arrives that by the time he checks in his multitude of weapons our interview time is reduced by at least a third. We let him keep the bullet-stocked bandoliers and strappings that adorn many of his limbs, mostly because we are on the clock but also because a 6ft 6in naked spider isn’t any less terrifying to us than one whose chest back and legs are bound by magazine clips and darts.
When Xio finally enters he sits bolt upright in the provided seat with all three sets of arms folded and just stares at us. In the sturdy impenetrable silence that follows we presume we are staring back with mouths suspended in chagrined horror; however the cold shock of meeting Xio is rather paralytic and as such no notes were taken. Whether our obvious fear bothered him or not is, even now, utterly unfathomable, since unlike the previous cutthroat mercenaries we have interviewed Xio is calm and level-headed to the point of being flat and hence is nigh on impossible to read.
He humourlessly waits instead, in that lifetime of silence, for us to begin asking the questions. In response all of his answers are fast, short and icily precise making it impossible to warm to any aspect of his chilling persona. We suspect he doesn’t like being questioned but it’s pretty hard to tell if he actually likes or dislikes anything unless he unequivocally tells us so in that straight up, cold-as-a-corpse-slapped-on-the-mortuary-table voice of his.
Having so many limbs, eyes and guns it is obviously difficult for anyone to get the drop on Xio, plus sensing vibrations means that even when blindfolded he has a good idea of where his enemies are at all times. A lover of the shadows and silence, we learn he is impatient in conversation, that he intensely dislikes indirect questioning and also any form of narrative embellishment to the bare facts. Being a man of action he hates boasters who ramble on about their conquests and we are quick to pick up on the fact that the less you say and the more you do, the more likely it is that he will tolerate you; we say tolerate because we’re pretty sure he’s incapable of actually liking anyone.
Xio knows he’s the best in his field of expertise but isn’t conceited enough to be grandiose about it. Quite simply he tells us he likes ‘facts and guns.’ And as his records confirm Xio does have a fantastic amount of technical knowledge when it comes to weaponry. Although guns are his prime speciality from what we are told he also seems to have no problem with crossbows or blades. In close-quarter combat his preference is hand-to hand-to-hand, because, as he sharply states, ‘it is far easier and faster to over-power an opponent with strength than to faff about with a prissy little knife.’
When it comes to ultimate preference we are informed that he ‘favours smgs’ (that’s sub-machine guns to you and I) since they are single-handed weapons and he can hold six at once to cover all directions. He tells us that he keeps spare clips strapped to his body for fast reloads without the need of a free hand, because well, we presume even six hands are never enough. When using two-handed guns, Xio states that he likes to take two for firing forward and a third behind his back so he can quickly switch the reloads and maintain continuous fire.
Whilst obviously not a people-person Xio does have a merry band of unsavoury acquaintances who work for him in the deep underground of Naiva; previous interviewees Charrock, Argo and Si'Ra were in fact quite high up in his chain of command until the four of them had a falling out. Xio is tight-lipped about the affair, which isn’t exactly surprising as there doesn’t seem to be anything he isn’t tight-lipped about.
Yet as it stands Xio still works at the forefront of this ‘dark arts’ troupe, a crime boss of sorts, although he is not their leader so much as the guy who currently has the most firepower, money and biggest reputation for murdering anyone who doesn’t do as instructed. We are told anyone can join his troupe though it isn’t highly recommended as the death toll for newcomers by their peers is remarkably high.
We doubt he views his organisation as a criminal one seeing as anything together enough to be organised in any sense of the word is a blessing in the cities of Vidul. An every, man, fish, dog and spider for himself kind of place, the lowest of the low reside in the interconnected tunnels and caves that run beneath the island of Naiva. From there Xio and his workers largely provide protection rackets, grand ‘retrieval’ missions (better known as larceny) and of course the thing his troupe is most renowned for; assassination.
We doubt he has any hobbies outside of work and honestly daren’t ask.
Thinking about other aspects of this man’s life, such as what he eats for example quite frankly scares the beluk out of us. Needless to say all breathe a sigh of relief when the interview finally ends. Cheerless as ever Xio passes us a business card on his way out of the door and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.